Rose Batister College Tuition Fund
Organized by: Kokoy Severino
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free..."
I can’t tell you about my future sister-in-law Rose without speaking a little about the poverty in the Philippines.
Poverty in the Philippines is painful to witness and impossible to forget. When it comes down to it, there are really only two socio-economic classes in Philippine society – the privileged and the poor. It doesn’t take any advanced economics degrees to understand these basic realities; one just needs to be observant. After travelling extensively and regularly over the past ten some odd years several times a year in the country of my birth, one of the realities I have learned to recognize and face is that the most persecuted groups in the Philippines are those whose labor is most critical.
Take for example the jeepney drivers who provide low-cost public and convenient transportation to factory workers, vegetable vendors at the palengke, students, cashiers, construction workers, snacks peddlers, security guards at the banks where the privileged keep their money and the waitstaff of restaurants in malls where they spend it. Jeepney drivers provide a critical service to the economy, working long hours at a very physically demanding job providing affordable transportation to the nation's workforce. Yet, jeepney drivers cannot earn enough to pay rent. You can see them sleeping inside their vehicles during off hours, parked in the jeepney bay underneath a flyover or in a makeshift driveway next to squatter settlements. Most of the time, you will see the driver's entire family squeezed in with him, young children on an improvised mat on the floor of the middle aisle. Despite the importance of their role in the economy, jeepney drivers are one of the most persecuted groups in Philippine society.
Another persecuted group is the rice farmers. By farmers, I’m not talking about the owners of the land. I’m talking about the workers who do the actual farming. Planting rice, despite all the romantic notions of the lifestyle depicted in folk songs, traditional dances, and festivals, is one of the most brutal jobs on the human body. Planting small seedlings in a mud paddy requires being bent over for hours upon hours under a hot tropical sun. Farmers are also often exposed to chemical pesticides, and have little to no protection against disease-carrying mosquitoes and flies swarming onto open cuts, easily infecting them. Rice farmers face all sorts of health issues, compounded sometimes by alcoholism and cigarette-borne ailments. They also have one of the most important jobs; it’s a no-brainer that rice production is critical to the food supply of a rice-eating nation. Yet, rice farmers do not earn anywhere nearly enough to pay rent, living as squatters on the very land that they farm, constructing dwellings with whatever materials they can find, and supplementing their income in whatever way they can, barely able to afford the same rice they break their bodies to produce. The average rice-farmer in the Philippines today quit school at fifth grade, when they became big enough to help the family in the fields, perpetuating these conditions for generations.
Poverty in the Philippines is multi-generational. The most basic social unit in Philippine society is the family. Families stick together for generations. So, within one household, it is normal to find grandparents, parents, kids, aunts, uncles, cousins, sometimes even great-grandparents living together. This is the case no matter which socio-economic class one is in - whether of the privileged or of the poor. Thus, homeless Filipinos are homeless as an entire family – grandparents, parents, kids, aunts, uncles, cousins, sometimes even great-grandparents living together on the street, or in the jeepney the father drives for a living, or in a shelter patched together with whatever materials they can find.
This brings me to Rose, the youngest child of a family of rice-farmers trapped in a cycle of poverty. Being a career educator, I know what the research has been telling us since time immemorial – education is the key. When Rose graduated from high school last year, she decided that she wanted to go to college and become a teacher. Despite being told for some inexplicable reason by the college advisor that her high school grades were too good for her choice of majors, she stuck to her decision, determined to serve the community as a teacher, helping not just her own family break the cycle of poverty they have been trapped in for generations, but the families of her future students as well.
Rose has just finished her first year at Urdaneta City University in Pangasinan, a province north of Manila. She is about to begin her second year, and is the first member of her family to get this far.
Here is the breakdown of Rose's educational expenses at Urdaneta City University, in Philippine pesos per semester:
Tuition = P9000
Incidentals (books, projects, uniform, etc.) = P5000
Boarding house = P11,000
Allowance = P8000
Food = P10,000
TOTAL = P43,000
At today’s exchange rate of about P46 to the dollar, P43,000 is equivalent to approximately $950.
Rose has six semesters left for a total of $5700. The return on this kind of investment is immeasureable, as Rose will be lifting her family out of the cycle of poverty in which they have been trapped for generations, and helping others do the same through her career choice.
Would you help me make sure that she achieves her goals? Rose is smart, she is a real go-getter, she is dedicated to her studies, she is responsible, extremely kind and thoughtful, respectful of elders, soft-spoken, humble, fun-loving and nice, though a bit shy, and disarmingly beautiful. She is fluent in two languages – Tagalog and Ilocano – and is studying her third – English. I know her because she is the younger sister of Badeth, my equally beautiful girlfriend.
I pray your answer is yes. Help me to help this family break their cycle of poverty.
Kokoy Severino is an associate principal in Austin, Texas. He has been serving the community through the field of education for almost 30 years. He is also a youth soccer coach certified by both the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and the United States Soccer Federation. He travels to the Philippines several times a year to learn and conduct soccer training sessions for economically disadvantaged youths. He is a musician - bass-player of the Presidents and guitar-player/lead vocalist of kayumanggi Pinoy rock band. For questions and more information, please contact Kokoy at email@example.com.